Elenium Enables Safer and Smoother Airport Travel Using AWS
Innovative technology has extraordinary potential for streamlining passenger flow through airports, enhancing safety, and providing a more enjoyable experience to all. Australian-based startup Elenium Automation (Elenium) is leading the way, using automation to create advanced self-service technology that delivers a connected and seamless traveler experience.
Elenium employed a suite of services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a touchless system that eliminates outdated, confusing, and time-consuming processes and that increases passenger flow. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Elenium again used AWS to quickly deploy an early-detection health tool to make airport travel even safer.
We wouldn’t have the intellectual freedom to even think about these ideas if we didn’t have AWS to help us take them to market."
CEO, Elenium Automation
Rapidly Deploying New Technology Using AWS
Founded in 2016, Elenium aims to help airports and airlines securely modernize their operational technology. With its focus on building sophisticated hardware solutions for airports, Elenium and its team of 80 employees were not interested in building advanced software solutions from scratch and then also having to manage them. The company determined that outsourcing to a managed cloud service provider was the most efficient way to deploy its products. The company turned to AWS because of its breadth of quickly deployable managed services.
In late 2018, Elenium began developing Voyager, a program that uses biometrics, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, and cloud technologies to replace outdated processes—such as scanning boarding passes and manually entering data—in place at many airports. “We developed the first working prototype in 4 months,” says Aaron Hornlimann, Elenium CEO, “and that includes building a whole new set of hardware, bag drop design, new kiosk design, boarding gate design, and a new virtual duty-free shopping experience, as well as all the AWS-backed software behind that.” In March 2019, Elenium introduced Voyager at an exposition in London, essentially setting up a virtual airport in which users could download Voyager onto their mobile phone and interact with it to check in, drop off luggage, shop, and more. The process was simple, but behind it is an integrated array of AWS services working seamlessly with Elenium’s hardware.
Turning a Selfie into an All-Access Pass at the Airport on AWS
When passengers check in for their flight, they use the Voyager mobile app to take a selfie that is submitted through Amazon Rekognition, which uses highly accurate facial analysis for identity verification. Amazon Rekognition generates an ID from the photo that passengers use throughout their check-in process. The data is housed in Amazon DynamoDB, a key-value and document database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale, which then creates a map of passengers’ progress as they pass from touch point to touch point—from security to an airport retail shop, for example. From that information, Voyager predicts what data will be needed at the next touch point, caching that data to speed up the overall airport experience.
Voyager also uses Amazon Polly, which turns text into lifelike speech, and Amazon Lex, which turns speech into text to create a conversational interface, to provide support and instructions to passengers during the check-in process. Passengers can talk to the app on their mobile device or at Voyager kiosks in airports to check in bags, figure out seat changes, perform automatic visa checks, scan passports, manage bookings, and more.
Another key feature is Voyager Bag Drop, which eliminates the need to use a bag tag by using computer vision to identify passengers’ luggage. Once travelers place their bags on the conveyor belt, Voyager sends a confirmation message that the luggage was received along with a photo of it so travelers have a record of its condition before the journey. Passengers can also purchase duty-free products at the Voyager Virtual Shopping Wall—powered by AWS—and have them delivered to their homes or hotels rather than carry them on board.
At the time of boarding, Voyager uses Amazon Rekognition to automatically validate each passenger using biometrics (i.e., facial structure), which is much more secure than the traditional process of printing and scanning boarding passes. “The chance of someone getting a copy of your boarding pass and using it to access your frequent flyer number or anything else that’s normally stored in those barcodes is greatly minimized,” explains Hornlimann.
Since March 2019, Elenium has implemented various Voyager features to create a connected and seamless traveler experience in 13 airports worldwide and is currently deploying in another 7. Airports with Voyager technology report that the system is able to reduce processing time by up to 60 percent. New Zealand’s Auckland Airport has installed Voyager kiosks and reduced its average check-in time from 20 minutes to 8 minutes. Etihad Airways is now implementing Voyager Bag Drop units and plans to incorporate the entire Voyager process in the next 6 months, becoming the first airline to deploy the complete contactless self-service technology. This adoption process, says Hornlimann, “is much faster than it has ever been. A check-in kiosk was effectively the same for a decade before we saw any kind of innovation there. But now we’re seeing that adoption much faster. And that can only happen because of cloud service providers like AWS.”
Enabling Safer Airport Travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Soon after Voyager’s launch, Elenium began to investigate touchless technology as a solution to make self-service more accessible for passengers with reduced mobility. When the COVID-19 pandemic brought new safety concerns to air travel, Elenium quickly realized that Voyager’s contactless, voice-controlled technology was especially relevant and useful because it could help people pass more safely through airports without having to touch a single surface, reducing the risks of viral or bacterial germ transmission. The company also realized the potential for this technology across a wide array of sectors in which public screening may be vital in the future, including healthcare, aged care, sporting arenas, and more.
In less than 8 weeks, Elenium was able to evolve its customer-facing Voyager kiosks into health screening points that use contactless detection to measure three vital signs: temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. If the tool detects an abnormality, it connects the person to a medical professional through a virtual conference or diverts the person to manual screening to do a second round of screening. The Elenium tool has been deployed in Abu Dhabi International Airport, and a US trial at airports and healthcare facilities will begin soon. Throughout this process, AWS has helped Elenium innovate to bring confidence to the public, the air travel industry, and other sectors that will be required to transform their practices after the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wouldn’t have the intellectual freedom to even think about these ideas if we didn’t have AWS to help us take them to market,” says Hornlimann.
Changing the Relationship between Aviation and Technology
Building on AWS, Elenium deployed a touchless self-service system that facilitates a faster, more secure passenger experience in airports. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Elenium used AWS services to rapidly adjust its focus, adapting self-service kiosks to create health-screening checkpoints that make airport travel safer. In the end, what Elenium really accomplished on AWS was changing the aviation industry’s relationship with technology. “The advent of cloud computing marks a fundamental shift for the aviation industry,” Hornlimann says. “It changes how quickly airports can adapt and consume technology.”
Learn more about AWS for Travel and Hospitality: aws.amazon.com/travel-and-hospitality
About Elenium Automation
Australian company Elenium Automation develops innovative technologies that improve the passenger experience and passenger-flow management in airports worldwide. Founded in 2016, it has supplied more than 700 devices to 13 airports globally.
Benefits of AWS
- Processes passenger traffic 60% more efficiently in an airport
- Reduced average check-in time by 12 minutes
- Enabled a production cycle of just 4 months
- Developed and deployed a new tool in less than 8 weeks
AWS Services Used
Amazon Rekognition makes it easy to add image and video analysis to your applications using proven, highly scalable, deep learning technology that requires no machine learning expertise to use.
Amazon Polly is a service that turns text into lifelike speech, allowing you to create applications that talk, and build entirely new categories of speech-enabled products.
Amazon DynamoDB is a key-value and document database that delivers single-digit millisecond performance at any scale.
Amazon Lex is a service for building conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text.
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